“Losing Ground” Report Sees Renewed Development, Climate Threat

Release Date:
June 30, 2014

LINCOLN, MAMass Audubon has just released Losing Ground: Planning for Resilience, which documents land use patterns in Massachusetts from 2005-2013 and shows that while development slowed in that period, 13 acres per day were lost and the rate of development is once again picking up as the economy recovers.

The report is the fifth iteration in the conservation leader’s Losing Ground series that has been spotlighting Massachusetts’ development and land conservation trends for 30 years. For the first time, the challenges of climate change thread through a Losing Ground document, most notably in its call for identification and protection of climate-resilient landscapes.

Over the eight-year data-gathering period, approximately 38,000 acres of forest or other undeveloped land were converted to development in the Bay State, equaling 13 acres per day. Today, 22 percent of the Commonwealth—the third-most densely populated state in the nation— is developed; a quarter is protected; and more than half is up for grabs.

The conservation community should protect an additional 1.5 million acres or 30% of the state for its natural resource values, major contributors to Massachusetts residents’ quality of life. Further progress on smart growth and targeted land protection is essential to sustaining Massachusetts’ environment and strong economy, the report suggests.

“Mass Audubon is proud to release this latest edition of our award-winning series, Losing Ground,” said President Henry Tepper. “I also think we should be proud to live in a Commonwealth in which the state and local governments, not-for-profit conservation organizations and citizens have come to together with the common interest of protecting what is truly special about Massachusetts. 

“In contrast to states which continue to lose substantial open space, Massachusetts has reversed this trend.  During the last decade we have gone from losing 40 acres a day to development to now protecting 41 acres a day and losing 13," Tepper added. However, our work is far from over as we now work to protect the next 1.5 million acres of land critical to the nature of Massachusetts. :"We look forward to working with the residents of Massachusetts, fellow land trusts, the legislature, and next governor on this task.”

The Nature Conservancy’s Massachusetts Program in Massachusetts provided analysis of climate-resilient lands for the report.

"This document is a call to action for the conservation of the lands vital to our long-term ecological and economic future,” said Wayne Klockner, state director and vice president for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “And a changing climate makes that call more urgent than ever before," 

Losing Ground was supported through the Open Space Institute’s Resilient Landscapes Initiative, which is made possible with a lead grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Resilient Landscapes Initiative builds the capacity of land trusts to respond to climate change and supports land conservation projects that will provide refuge for plants and animals in an uncertain climate.

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The project was also supported by generous foundations, organizations, and individuals, including: Alces Foundation; American Planning Association—Massachusetts Chapter; Franz and Anne Colloredo-Mansfeld; Epsilon Associates, Inc.; Horsley Witten Group, Inc.; Susan and Christopher Klem; Massachusetts Association of Planning Directors; Judy A. Samelson and William Schawbel; U.S. Green Building Council—Massachusetts Chapter

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Mass Audubon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 140,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at www.massaudubon.org.